And we’re off – almost

As July begins, there is a very real prospect of lockdown ending. After over 100 days in the refuge of our friend’s bungalow in Devon, we have re-loaded the motorhome and look set to take advantage of the easing of restrictions to get under way on 4 July – Independence Day!

We plan to have a few weeks whizzing round the UK to catch up with relatives and a few friends and then we are booked to travel to France on 29th July. Of course, we were booked to do that on 22nd March, so we’re not counting any chickens until the Eurotunnel actually pulls out of Folkestone, but we remain hopeful!!

As we moved back into our home on wheels, we thought that many of those following our (so far uneventful) adventures may have never seen the van we have been talking so much about, so here is my first ever attempt at online video, shot on my phone and with no post-production editing (so be understanding of quality…).

Hopefully it will give you an insight into our set up for the next few months, and possibly years…

Our palace on wheels…

There’s Only One “I” In Cliché, But None in Team

Our unexpected stay in Devon has bought some fringe benefits and one of those has been the chance to watch more movies on Amazon Prime and Netflix.  Whilst we enjoy a rom-com and a good thriller like the next person, we particularly like watching films that makes us think.  Sometimes these are the typical big budget productions like Apple Mortgage Cake, or Self Made, but equally they can be low-budget, documentary-style features based on true stories of ordinary people.

Two in particular gave us pause for thought: The Longest Journey and From Fat to Finish Line.  The first featured a group of amateur cyclists undertaking the Race Across America, a 3000-mile relay cycle race to raise awareness of ALS, and the second was a team of runners undertaking a 200-mile relay race in the Florida Keys.

Both stories showed the power of the human spirit, but also particularly the extra achievement that can come from working together as a group.  In the two teams, individuals dug deep and kept going because of their self-imposed obligation to the team.  Had they been just competing for themselves they would have given up, but as team members they soldiered on.

A Dragon Boat Team, when social distancing was unheard of…

Talking of soldiering, in my (very brief) time in the army I learnt that military training focuses on creating an allegiance to the unit (platoon, company or regiment).  As a result, much of a soldier’s bravery when under fire comes from not wanting to let their buddies down.  In a team, we hold ourselves to a higher standard, it seems.

To quote another cliché favoured by the manufacturers of motivational posters, “Together Everyone Achieves More”.  As we transition into a new, socially-distant world we must remember the importance of maintaining those team connections.  We may reduce infections by being distant, but we may also sacrifice collective endeavour and thus level of attainment (not to mention costs to mental health).

We all need to remember to look out for those on our team – whether at home, in our community, at work, or in our wider network.  You Never Walk Alone, unless you choose to.  I hope you can be there for others, and have others there for you.

Other News

Just a quick update on our lockdown life.  We’re still doing lots of walking: up to 18 miles at a time now.  We are still enjoying spending time together and talking to each other. 

We also noticed how many people commented on the last blog where I “confessed” that we enjoyed being together.  Isn’t it interesting that such a thing was worthy of comment?!  Why are we all surprised that people who have been married 26 years like to be together?  Room for another blog there I think….

It is starting to look like we will be on the road again during July.  France opens up to Brits on Monday, so after visiting relatives and friends once UK lockdown ends, we might be back on our original plan in August. Who knows?!

Stay safe and stay well.

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3

If you’re not an Ian Dury fan, don’t panic you haven’t missed parts 1 and 2 – it’s one of his song titles!  Today marks two months since we set off from Cholsey in our motorhome, to embark on this exciting phase of life that some call a sabbatical, and some call early retirement.  We’d been planning it for ten years, in worrying levels of detail, and we had shared with all our loved ones our plans, dreams and aspirations.

Yet, when we set off that March morning we were forced to abandon all those plans and dreams, and like the rest of the world, we were rapidly heading into this new reality of lockdown, distancing and uncertainty.  In the two months since we have enjoyed many calls and conversations about our adjustment to this unforeseen hiatus.  Many friends have been concerned that we’re devastated not to be touring the South of France in our motorhome, and are surprised that actually we’ve adjusted quite well.  We have many reasons to be cheerful.

Before I go on, a disclaimer:  in no way do I underestimate the impact of the pandemic.  We have friends who have been ill, we have lost an elderly relative to Covid, we know people face economic, mental health and other challenges as a result of lockdown.  Whilst we don’t know any frontline NHS  (or other services) workers personally, we appreciate the phenomenal pressure they have been under and the sacrifices they have been making.  However, one can honour all of that, and still look for positives.

Our picnic spot at Sharp Tor overlooking the Kingsbridge Estuary and Salcombe

During our six-hour, fifteen-mile walk in glorious sunshine around the South Hams area yesterday, including some stunning cliff walks and awe-inspiring views of Dartmoor on the horizon, I took time to contemplate my own, or our own, reasons to be cheerful:

  • First and foremost, we have our health and fitness – not only to be able to tackle such walks, but just to be surviving in this difficult time
  • We have great friends and family, who stay in touch with frequent video calls where we all discuss how we haven’t done much, but we enjoy the contact!
  • We have very generous friends who helped us in our time of need with the offer of this property in Devon, we are forever in their debt
  • We are “stuck” in a beautiful part of the country, with amazing sea views, rolling green fields and an abundance of life, both farmed and wild.
  • We have had THE most amazing weather – in over eight weeks here we have had four or five wet days.  On only one day have we been totally confined to barracks.  After the wet winter we had, this is even more amazing.  Our new neighbours here want us to stay forever, because we seem to have been a luck charm on the sunshine front!
  • We have been able to give back a little to our community here by volunteering as middle-class drug pushers – collecting prescriptions for the shielded elderly residents and delivering them to their door (and then retreating 2 metres…)
  • We have developed a great routine – blending our physical fitness with some intellectual stimulation and socialising (virtually) and enjoying some incredible films and documentaries via Amazon Prime and Netflix.
  • The pressures and worries of normal working life, and running a home, have gradually fallen away – and without them you realise how consuming they are.  Living in a property where you can’t do DIY and there is no gardening to do is both unsettling but also hugely liberating.  For the first time in decades we have no real job list* so we can just enjoy our time and do as we please

*Let’s not be silly, of course we still have a job list – how could anyone function without one? (!)  It’s just a lot shorter and a lot less pressing than before.

Our greatest reason to be cheerful, it has emerged, is that without the distractions of work, of jobs around the home, of activities within Cholsey, we have much, much more time to just be together and to talk.  And, surprisingly perhaps after 30 years together, we both really like that.  Whilst most people we speak to are concerned that we’re devastated not to be in France and doing our Grand Tour, we’ve actually adjusted really well to being here in Devon.  Mainly because we have realised that seeing all the places we had planned to visit wasn’t actually the most exciting part of our plans.  Just being together was.

Of course, a time will come when we venture out of Thurlestone and start to re-engage with the wider world.  Like everybody, we still aspire to travel far and wide, even if we are nervous about what travel will look like post-Covid, and whether plans will be disrupted like this again and again in the coming months and years.  But lockdown has taught us two things about travel – firstly, if you’re going to do any travelling, book through an agent who can manage any changes for you (personally we would recommend the professionally talented and personally gorgeous Gill Nicholls) and secondly, it’s not about the travelling per se, it’s about what happens inside you as you travel. 

So, two months into retirement, and lockdown, we have many, many reasons to be cheerful.  I can’t speak for Bev, but personally I actually hold no regret that we didn’t get to France.  I have got so much from the time in Devon, not least some real, quality time with her.  I can do that anywhere.  I guess now it would just be nice to be able to choose!  We might have to wait another couple of months for that, but France will still be there, and hopefully our enjoyment of each other’s company will still be there too!

I hope you have reasons to be cheerful, and I hope in some small way these thoughts have given you one or two more.  Stay safe, stay well and stay in touch.

Paris in Springtime

Well, still Devon actually, but we can but dream…  As we enter week seven of life here, like others under lockdown we’ve settled into a routine.  Our limited excitement in the week is a trip to the supermarket, and our voluntary runs to the pharmacist to collect prescriptions for local old folks.  Of course, we’re also adjusting to being “retired” (technically we are economically inactive, but let’s not split hairs – especially as I have so few to start with).  Our routine includes a daily walk, so we now know every path and lane in the parish, and some of the neighbouring villages.

As we re-trace our steps on different routes, it is fascinating to observe how the landscape is changing as the weeks go by.  Fields that were ploughed in our first week or so are now sporting green shoots a few inches high (we’re dreading still being here when the wheat is harvested!) and the main beach here is remodelled regularly by the waves – the river that flows through the beach changes shape with every tide, and after storms last week the sand is now buried below deep seaweed – until the next storm or high tide.

Spring is definitely in the air, even if we’re not in Paris.  The fields now bound with young lambs and calves, the hedges are encroaching on the narrow lanes and the brown, lifeless woodland of March is giving way to vibrant bushes and abundant, noisy birdlife.

Lambs in a field
Bantham Beach, and some lambs

The flowers are the most obvious indicator – we arrived at the very end of daffodils, have seen primroses come and go, are well into carpets of bluebells and are currently enjoying the smell and look of wild garlic in many of the hedgerows and woods.

All of this is a reminder that, whilst all our lives are on hold with lockdown, the world keeps turning, the sun still comes up and nature has its own rhythm.  It provides a beautiful reminder that “this too will pass”.

A woodland scene with wild garlic flowers
Wild Garlic in our favourite woodland

Who knows whether we will see Devon through the summer – it looks likely we will be here for a while yet, so the flowers will change again, the hedgerows will thicken further and we will see the crops mature.  At least we can be grateful we get to see it.

We hope you are getting to see the beauty of Spring wherever you are, perhaps you will have the opportunity to enjoy it more than ever before.  Wherever you are, stay home, stay safe and stay in touch.

Give Ps a Chance

Back in late January, in those heady days when you could meet people in person and even hug them with their permission, I delivered my last ever talk at Jennings in Chalgrove to a crowded room, full of friends, colleagues, clients and people who had just turned up for some old-fashioned networking.

My talk was built around some memorable people I had the pleasure of working with during my career, and the lessons I wanted to share from their stories.  Each lesson was summarised by a word beginning with P.  I could have achieved immortality as a sage if I had only added a further P and warned of a Pandemic…

Unsurprisingly for me, I talked a bit about having a Plan – I was on the brink of fulfilling my plan to retire and travel to France.  At the talk, and in a few conversations afterwards, some people argued against the need for a Plan – they wanted the freedom to react to events and anyway, you couldn’t predict the future.  For some I could see that was appropriate but, I wisely asked, what chances were there of a major event disrupting a reasonable plan?…

Now, a month or more into that major event it’s obvious that any plan has been rendered irrelevant by the pandemic.  My own plans have changed enormously, and for most of us the current plan is “wait and see”.

Yet, based on LinkedIn posts and other communications I see some of my friends and contacts flourishing.  They may not be flourishing financially, but they are building their reputation, strengthening ties with their network and serving those around them in many, many ways.  Clearly their behaviour isn’t driven by a Plan, everything is too emergent at the moment.

And they’re not “Pivoting”, which seems to be both the buzz word and the snake oil of the moment.

They are following a different P.  Purpose.  Those I see currently flourishing are those I might have identified two months ago as being driven by purpose.  Their business was about making a difference, serving others, meeting a need.  The finances were secondary (though important).  Now I see those same people putting out podcasts, webinars, energy-giving optimistic posts, and other services their market needs (sometimes free, sometimes paid for).  I won’t name those people here, because of the risk of omission which would be unfair, but I am sure you see them too in your newsfeeds and Inboxes.

So, whilst a Plan is still important, because it can still drive your daily routine in lockdown, in a Pandemic your Plan must necessarily be short-term, or deliberately flexible.  Now, what will drive the Plan, more than ever, is your purpose.

Personally, I have come to realise that my ambition to travel was a skin around a core passion for financial independence and a chance to have a flexible life.  My plan has delivered that – so I am doing a lot of what is important to me, I am just doing it in one place in Devon, not in many places in France.  And France will still be there when this is over, and I will still be able to go.  My Purpose hasn’t changed, even if my Plan has.

Lockdown might be your chance to spend some time reflecting on your Purpose (more productive than tidying the loft…).  A purpose doesn’t have be some lofty altruistic goal to save the world – it can focus instead on how you will be in the world, or how you want to enjoy your time here.

What is your purpose, at work and in life more broadly?

Are you living it?

How can you adapt your current offering to fulfil your purpose, even during lockdown?

Of course, I can’t let a discussion of Purpose pass without reference to Maff Potts and his stirring talk at the Meaning Conference in November last year.  His humble style delivered a powerful message in a memorable way and I shall forever remember that all we need in life is “S and Purpo”.  (Watch the talk to understand that!)

It has to be said that Covid-19 has also taught us that you can be hugely successful without any real purpose.  A tiny virus that we believe is non sentient and has no plan or purpose, just a Darwinian impetus to propagate its gene pool, has hit the goldmine of finding a host species that travels the globe and relies on close personal contact for its existence.  You have to admire its success, however much we mourn the impact on human lives.

LOCKDOWN LIFE

For those of you reading the blog to hear of the personal journey Bev and I are making in retirement, thanks for reading past those previous thoughts!  We, like many, have fallen into our routine of daily exercise, regular calls with loved ones and the weekly excitement of a foray to the supermarket.  In the (almost) four weeks we have now lived in Devon we have walked far more than we have driven, learnt the highways and byways of our village by heart, and managed to do one mercy mission as volunteers helping the vulnerable in the village.

Bev has clocked up 100 hours as an NHS Volunteer without being called upon, and I managed to fail the security checks and so was rejected!

By far the most exciting development this week has been the decision by Bev that she need a haircut.  Most women and some men will know how the quality of hairdresser is a major issue for many, if not for me.  To be asked by someone I love to trim their hair in that situation is by far the scariest moment of my life (and I have been shot at by Paras).  Luckily, we came out of it with dignity intact and she still has both ears.  Rumours that I have taken down all mirrors in the house are unfounded.

Stay home, stay safe and stay in touch.

Lockdown Reflections and a Bit of Bully

So, we’re into week 2 of this shared experience, and it seems we’re all coping slightly differently. Some families are getting very creative <this clip is amazing>, while other are adapting to home schooling and the pain inflicted by Joe Wicks.

Here in Devon we’re still adjusting to not being on the trip we planned for ten years.  We’ve accepted the reality, and fully realise we are a lot luckier than many others, but it is hard not to indulge in a few wistful thoughts of what might have been, especially as we still thought we might get to do it as late as March 14th.  How quickly things changed!

I’m reminded of that bit at the end of Bullseye when Jim Bowen said to the couple from Warrington “Look what you could have won” and revealed a spangly speedboat or a new caravan.  There seemed an element of rubbing their nose in it, but they still did it every week.

Many of you subscribed to this blog to live vicariously through us as we travelled, and now we could only show you pictures of one parish in Devon (and we’re avoiding that at the moment so as not to incite the anti-second-home brigade). So, here’s a bit of what we might have been doing if we’d made it to France.

We are establishing our daily and weekly lockdown routine. We’re getting our allowed one exercise each day and here we can walk for a couple of hours and only see a handful of people. We’re avoiding honeypot sites like the coast path or the beach, and instead are walking the lanes inland. After 17 years in small business, attending regular networking events there were two things I was missing. Obviously the interesting conversations, but also the cooked breakfasts, so this morning I cooked myself some sausages and bacon as a treat!

Yesterday we had our weekly foray to a supermarket, which was a relief because even Old Mother Hubbard would have been shocked at the state of the fridge. Scurvy was a real and present danger. Waitrose were operating a limit on people in the store so while Bev went to sort the scanner thing, I asked the security guard if we could both go in, or just one of us. He said, and I quote, “The rule is one person per shop, unless your mother…” (referring to Bev) “… is a vulnerable person.” In his defence, Bev had her back to us, and was hunched over having queued in the cold, but I really thought Bev was going to break all manner of social distancing rules and clock him. Or at least bite his ankle.  She can see the funny side now…

Me with Bev (Not my Mum!)

Finally for this post, I am reflecting on how much the world has changed in just a few weeks. Who knows when it will return to some semblance of normality, or what the new normal will look like. It has really brought home how quickly one becomes out of touch in retirement. These few months will be defining times for my former peers in small business, and I will never know the anguish they are going through now.

I had considered offering my help, as a coach, whilst we are here in lockdown. However, I realise that all those good friends I have in the coaching world are so much better placed to help, because they are living it too.  So, I offer myself for chats as a friend, but I cannot justify offering myself as a coach. 

And I can only admire those who are putting in extra hours, handling huge stress, worrying about the future for themselves and their staff and still being there for their customers, their families and their communities.  Obviously our frontline NHS and other services are undertaking heroic actions at the moment, but so are the army of people in small businesses up and down the land.  The NHS will get us through this, but it is those small business people who will rebuild for us.

Retired for a Month: Has much happened?…

For some time leading up to retirement I knew I was going to need to adjust to not having several meetings a week, a few networking events a month and occasional drinks with work buddies.  Little did I know that within weeks everyone would be doing the same!  These are strange times, and I hope everyone is well, coping with being isolated with those they share home with, and finding hope for their futures on the work front.

Following the activity of clients, contacts and colleagues on social media, I am full of admiration for the way they are adapting, innovating and looking out for each other.  It fills me with hope that we will quite quickly recover as a country from this current crisis, because we have determined people out there, willing to pull their socks up, put in the thought and graft, and get our economy moving again.  I wish you all the very best in your endeavours.  I am delighted that a package, however limited, has now been announced for the self-employed.

We have settled into “lockdown” in our adopted home.  We are getting our allowed daily exercise and are mainly avoiding the honeypot places like the beach or coastal path and instead walking other lanes and footpaths, which are largely deserted.  Our tenants are now in our house (just getting in before removal companies closed for lockdown) and we remain hugely grateful for the variety of events, especially the gift of a roof over our heads, that mean we can now sit out the lockdown and see what happens later in the year.

Here on the coast there are frequent clues to the direction of the prevailing winds – many of the trees and bushes are sculpted by the weather.  Bev captured a beautiful example on one walk earlier this week:

Sculpted by the wind…

This got me thinking.  The tree doesn’t care that it’s being shaped by the wind in this way.  It just keeps growing, reacting to its prevailing environment and just being the best tree it can be in the circumstances.  Surely we can all learn from this tree at this difficult time?  We can only be the best we can be.  It might not be quite as we designed or planned, but it will still be.

However you are being buffeted by current events, I wish you well for the coming months.  Do keep me posted on what is happening for you, how you are shifting to fit the new situation, and on how you work out of it once we are all allowed out.

Stay well and stay safe.

Wherever I Park My Van, That’s My Home

Apologies to Paul Young, though to be fair it is he who should be apologising for his hit in the first place.  After weirdly rendering ourselves homeless whilst owning a home, we finally enacted Day 1 of “the spreadsheet” and pulled the van off the drive at around 9am on Saturday morning.

We’ve lived in Cholsey for almost 19 years and have had some amazing times in the village – made lovely friends, been involved in great projects and had more than one boozy, fun night with a house full of friends and family.  We’re sorry to leave, but also excited to be starting the next phase of our lives.

Setting off…

However, instead of heading to Kent in preparation for a Eurotunnel crossing and then the South of France, we headed along an almost-deserted M4 and M5, then progressively smaller and narrower roads before arriving in the seaside village of Thurlestone, near Salcombe.  We are indebted to two incredible friends who offered their bungalow as a bolthole while we wait for lockdowns to come and go.  With campsites closing in countries with full lockdowns, we couldn’t rely on staying on one of those and didn’t want to risk giving the virus to any of our kind family who offered us places to stay.  At least in Thurlestone we could be isolated and ride out the next few weeks or months.

Before we could relax into the idea of using the bolthole, we had one major hurdle.  We had to bring the motorhome with us (all our accessible worldly goods are in it!), but would we be able to get it parked at the bungalow?  There are no pictures of the process of parking, as we were somewhat focussed on not crashing the van or wrecking our hosts’ fence, but we managed to manoeuvre a 7ft 6in wide, 27ft long house on wheels down a drive that has a steep slope, felt about 7ft wide at times, and has a sharp 90 degree bend at the end…

At least we know no one is going to steal it from here in a hurry!  Bev’s inherent caution and fear of disaster and James’ inherent blasé confidence and positivity combined well to avoid unnecessary risks but to persist in the task, even when it was “squeaky bum time”.

So, we’re in.  Unpacked, set up and starting to relax.  Obviously we remain disappointed that we’re now living a different dream to the one we have had in our heads for ten years or more, but there are far, far worse places to be in lockdown.

Whilst walking remains allowed, we have plenty of options, and today we were treated to blue skies and glorious views.  Lots of people out enjoying the beach and coast path, and we remained a comfortable distance away from everyone.  In many ways, social distancing is an introvert’s dream!

Finally, I have to share some thoughts on perspective.  I’ve already mentioned Bev’s propensity to see risk, and my annoying cheerfulness and desire to see opportunity, but actually another occasion brought home how we all see the same things from different angles.  After 30 years together, Bev is well used to me banging my head on low beams, doorways, trees and many, many other things.  As a result, she is keen to protect me from such danger, and as we unpacked warned me to be careful about banging my head on the cooker hood in the kitchen.

I chuckled, and Bev thought I was mocking her care and concern for me.  I explained that the reason for my chuckles was the different perspective.  I was in very little danger of banging my head on the cooker hood, in fact I would struggle to hit my shoulder on it… 

Mind your head?!

This is what happens when your dear spouse is a foot shorter than you!

Thanks for all the kind comments and messages after our last post – sorry we will not be regaling you with pictures of Mediterranean beaches, but hopefully we can share with you our experiences as we adjust to early retirement – and share the journey many of you are on working at home for the first time.

Stay well, and keep your distance.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

OK, so a global pandemic wasn’t in my spreadsheet…

It was all going to plan (leaving the major hiccup of Brexit aside).  I stopped work at the end of February (thanks to all those who attended one of my farewell tour events!).  I embarked on a mammoth three-week DIYathon to get our house rent-ready for our tenants (it was way calmer and more relaxing “working” than it was doing the house) and we were all set to leave this coming Saturday for our dream trip to the South of France.

We had booked a week in Antibes, yards from the beach on the Mediterranean coast, to take a breath, process all the emotions of giving up work and settle into our new nomadic life in our motorhome.

Until lockdown happened.

So, we are currently camping on our own drive whilst Bev finishes at her work and we are reviewing our options.  I’m guessing our tenants won’t want us on the drive when they arrive, so we have to find somewhere else to park.  We’ve been inundated with offers from very kind friends, and we have no fears we will be fine, we just have to decide where we go.

At least ten years of planning, working, investing and doggedly sticking to the plan, all undone by a microscopic virus that has colonised the globe more effectively than any human empire. 

Of course, not being able to go on a long holiday is nothing compared to the travails of those facing drops in revenue, losing their jobs or those losing family members.  I’m not feeling sorry for myself.

But there is an interesting lesson in this.  We can only control the controllables.  Some readers may recall a similar sentiment in a newsletter about bear spotting in Canada.  You can do all the work to put yourself in the right place at the right time, but sometimes Life has other plans.

What I do retain is choices (subject to lockdown restrictions!).  I can choose to head to the south coast of the UK, or to see relatives and friends elsewhere in the UK.  Or I can stay locally and help to serve my local community in a time of need.  Bev and I will be making that choice in the next few days.  At least we have the choice.

I am thinking of all the friends in small business who are finding life tough right now.  Happy to talk on the phone or connect virtually if you want a chat.  Now the decorating is finished I have the time.

I know many wanted to follow our travels and have vicarious enjoyment of our life on the road.  That will come.  Just not for a while.

Stay well.

James

The Final Countdown

Europe’s mid-eighties stadium rock masterpiece is rapidly becoming the soundtrack to my life, as I enter the last few days of working and of living in my home of the last 18 years.  With a LONG list of admin and packing jobs, as well as a busy calendar of farewell socials, the pressure to get everything done is acute, and feels greater as each day counts down.

I’ve been counting down to this point since 2015 and ticking off a day then was an equal measure of time as it is now, but the significance is greater when the number remaining is much smaller.  I can now empathise with Einstein and his theory that time can speed up!

For many years I have subscribed to the idea of the End Effect, which I first read about in Mark Forster’s work on time management.  Think back to the last time you went on holiday, or back to December in the days before your Christmas break.  Were you more productive, as you sought to clear tasks before the break?

It is definitely something I have observed over time in myself, and in clients who get so many of their action points done in the days before our next session.  Humans seem to have a propensity for drift, and then a need to speed up to compensate for the drift when we face a hard deadline like a holiday, or a retirement day.  My social calendar has seen the same effect – I’ve been banging on about going away for years, but many people seem to have only just realised they want to see me before I go!

How can we use the End Effect to improve our productivity?  Obviously, I strongly advocate retiring to boost your focus but even in the absence of such a deadline, we can create mini deadlines against which we work.  You could punctuate your year with regular holidays so you become focussed on completing tasks in the gaps between them.  You could have quarterly (or more frequent) meetings to check progress on projects and goals.

But I have seen many people, including me, have regular reviews or progress meetings and still suffer enormously from drift.  The trick, it seems, is to have real accountability, ideally to an external reference point that focusses the mind before the review stage: tax return deadlines are a great example.  Mastermind groups or success clubs have a similar effect if run well, and I saw their power with my clients over many years.

Making clear commitments to actions by a date to a third person such as a business coach or success club seems to activate some part of our character that doesn’t want to let down others, or be seen to “fail” in public.  We seem as humans to fear letting others down more than letting ourselves down.  I can’t explain it, but I can suggest using it.

If for some reason something went wrong and I didn’t retire on 28 Friday, I would obviously be very personally disappointed.  But my greatest fear would be turning up to a networking event in March, shrugging my shoulders and saying “Oops”.

So, how can you use this in your daily life?  Regular readers will have read my blog on the value of having a Goal, supported by a Plan and delivered by daily, or frequent, Actions.  I strongly advocate having 90 Day Plans to give you frequent “Final Countdowns”.  Have a week or two off every 12 weeks, and focus on what needs to be done before your next holiday.

Schedule those actions into weeks within the twelve (don’t leave all of them to the last week) and then be clear on what you need to do TODAY to honour your commitments.  And tell someone – be accountable.

So:

  • have a bigger life goal
  • know the 90-day steps towards that goal
  • plan weekly activity to deliver the 90-day steps
  • Take daily actions to complete the weekly activity.

You may not be heading for Venus, like the somewhat unimaginative Europe lyrics, but you may still stand tall if you reach your own personal goals. For many years I have said that the biggest enemy of success is drift.  All of us can put off something until tomorrow.  But at some point we become aware that our tomorrows are limited.  So don’t waste your todays.